Monday, February 19, 2018

Mom's Philadelphia Eagles
Super Bowl LII junk mail

Breaking news: It was two weeks ago today that the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans were still in a mild — OK, medium — state of shock, celebrating the team's improbable victory the night before, over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. A parade was being planned, highlights of quarterbacks being wide receivers (with varying degrees of success) were being played on endless loops, memes were being invented left and right.

Just a week-and-a-half after the big game, I received two pieces of junk mail addressed to Mom, hawking Eagles commemorative merchandise. If nothing else, these folks definitely deserve points for moving fast, trying to capitalize on Philly fever, common-sense settings being toggled to "off," and loose wallets.

Mom has been gone for almost a year, but I suspect that I'll be receiving mail with her name for the rest of my life. She was on — and this is a precisely calculated figure — one zillion mailing lists. But I'm sure she never purchased a commemorative football. Still, the junk mailers found her.

Here, for posterity, is a look at the two advertising pitches that were addressed to Mom. I wouldn't be surprised if there are more on the way.

Danbury Mint commemorative football
For just $129, plus $9.80 shipping, you can own this "must-have" tribute to the Eagles for placement on your bookshelf or other special area of your house (perhaps the side table in your green-and-white sunkenarium, so visiting Cowboys fans are forced to look at it). It is, of course, a limited edition and you must act quickly. The pitch also states: "Our artisans are currently beginning to craft the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl LII Championship Commemorative. Due to the unique level of detail, production of this museum-quality commemorative won't be complete until early fall, but place an advance reservation now to make sure you're one of the few to acquire this unique tribute."

Museum quality, folks.

Note the Winston Churchill books on the left!

PCS Stamps & Coins
This one is pricier, since we're talking about silver coins. It's a set of "12 pure U.S. Silver Dollars, each issued in 2018 and brilliantly colorized with a different snapshot of a top Eagles player who contributed to this remarkable season." And, hey, they'll throw in a hand-numbered wooden display chest (with lock and key) free of charge!

There are only 2,018 sets (get it?) being issued, so act quickly!

Each of the 12 coins costs $99, plus $6 shipping. So you might need to dip into your retirement savings for the overall $1,260 this set will cost you. (Note: Please do not dip into your retirement savings. Contact a certified financial adviser and never take advice from an ephemera blog.)

Also, take note of the tidy profit they're making with that price. As of today, one troy ounce of silver, which is what these coins contain, sells for about $16.

Final note from the advertising pitch: "This craze is sweeping the sporting world ... and supplies are limited."

Sunday, February 18, 2018

This week's coolest ephemera on eBay, courtesy of Vincent Price

At some point in his life, the amazing Vincent Price (1911-1993) doodled and jotted names and ideas all over a piece of Sheraton Hotels & Motor Inns notepaper. Now, in 2018, that piece of paper is a hot commodity on eBay. What a world.

It is a truly cool piece of paper, though.

In addition to four faces that show Price's flair for drawing, the jotted names seem to be a who's who of Old Hollywood: Tallulah (Bankhead?), Clifton (Webb?), Noel (Coward?), Mrs. John Huston (he had five wives, a later possibility among them is Enrica Soma), Lorre...

And, as if an idea struck him, this is scrawled twice: Instant obits.

What did it mean, Vincent?

Among the other things jotted down: Snowbird Lodge, Picasso, Stahl, St. Georges Hospital, phone numbers and ... best of all ... Tooting. That's a word that always makes Sarah laugh, so she'll be especially pleased that Vincent Price once scribbled it on a notepad.

Related posts

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Family photo: Austin family house in Wilmington, Delaware

This undated, sepia-toned family photo measures 4 inches by 5⅝ inches. According to the writing on the back, it features the "Austin home, 906 Jefferson Street, Wilmington, Del."

It shows many children, some adults wearing proper hats, a dog on the sidewalk and what appears to be a young boy staring forlornly out the first-floor window.

Rachel Matilda Austin Chandler (1829-1907), shown at right, was the grandmother of my great-grandmother Greta Miriam Chandler Adams (1894-1988). So that makes Rachel, deep breath, one of my great-great-great-grandmothers. Her husband was Philemma Chandler, who I mentioned back in December.

And how is the ancestral Austin home doing today? Not well, methinks. According to Google, it's now a parking lot...

Friday, February 16, 2018

#FridayReads on current events, economy & the arts

On this soggy and strangely warm February Friday, here's my latest compilation of interesting links for you to tuck away for those moments, whatever they are, when you have an appetite to feed your mind.

Also, here's the latest rundown on books I'm currently reading and have finished recently:

  • Cosmic Engineers, by Clifford D. Simak
  • Little, Big, by John Crowley [currently stalled]
  • Encyclopedia of Superstitions, by Edwin Radford, Mona A. Radford [my browsing book]
  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson
  • Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory [finished]
  • Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution by David L. Craddock [finished]
  • Saga, Volume 3, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples [finished]
  • Plutona, by Jeff Lemire [finished, would not recommend]



History & technology


A rabbit hole I went down

Thursday, February 15, 2018

5 fabulous old postcards from Fairyland Caverns at Rock City

Fairyland Caverns, which opened to the public in 1932, is just one facet of the sprawling and world-famous roadside attraction called Rock City, in northwestern Georgia. The brainchild of Frieda Carter, Fairyland is a folk- and fairy-tale themed rock garden filled with tiny statues of gnomes and other fantastical creatures, many of which were imported from Germany. You can read more about its history on the Enchanted America blog.

These gorgeous, color-saturated postcards of Fairyland all have the date August 1954 written on them in pen, but are otherwise unused. The first four cards are glossy, Genuine Curteich-Chicago "C.J. Photochrom" postcards published by Rock City Gardens. The last one is a linen postcard from E.C. Kropp Co. of Milwaukee, also published by Rock City Gardens. I'm sure they had an amazing gift shop six decades ago and still have a dandy one today.

Descriptions are underneath each card. Enjoy the gnomes!

Fairyland Caverns entrance. This and all of the other Curteich-Chicago postcards notes that "Highway 58 is the best road up Lookout Mountain to Rock City."

Carnival of the Gnomes, with a ferris wheel as the centerpiece.

Jack and the Beanstalk. At one point, there was text in the lower-left corner of the postcard, but it appears to have been purposely covered up.

An elaborate Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with Bambi seemingly thrown in for good measure.

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, with an apparent spanking in process.

Дайте миру шанс
[a Samantha Smith post]

It seems that the Samantha Smith story is fading into obscurity. And that's a shame.

This is the cacheted first day cover for a stamp that was issued in the Soviet Union in December 1985 to honor Smith, a 13-year-old resident of Maine who had died that August.

And why was the USSR honoring a deceased American schoolgirl during the latter stages of the Cold War?

In a word, peace.

In November 1982, 10-year-old Smith wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov, the newly named leader of the Soviet Union. It stated:
Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren't please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.


Samantha Smith
Andropov responded to Smith with a lengthy letter in April 1983. It stated, in part, "We want peace — there is something that we are occupied with: growing wheat, building and inventing, writing books and flying into space. We want peace for ourselves and for all peoples of the planet. For our children and for you, Samantha."

At the end of the letter, Andropov invited Smith for a summer visit to the Soviet Union. And, that July, she traveled there, along with her parents. They spent two weeks touring the country, including Moscow and what was then named Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). It was a huge media event at the time, for both countries.

Andropov was unable to meet with Smith and her family during the trip, because he had fallen ill. But he did speak with her on the telephone while she was there.

Andropov died a half-year later, in February 1984, of kidney failure.

And, sadly, Smith died two summers after her goodwill trip to the USSR, in August 1985, in a plane crash in Maine.

And so it was that the USSR issued this Samantha Smith stamp in December 1985, honoring her youthful work for peace and understanding between the United States and Soviet Union. There is also, a "Samantha Smith Alley" and other monuments and things named in her honor in Russia today. She posthumously received the International Courage of Conscience Award from The Peace Abbey.

All because, at age 10, she wrote, stamped and mailed a letter to the leader of a country with which the USA had decidedly frosty relations. Her visit to the USSR also paved the way for a reciprocal goodwill visit when Katya Lycheva toured in the United States in 1986.

There is much, much more, of course, to the story of Smith's too-short life. I hope it remains more than a historical footnote. Here are some links to learn more:

Every piece of paper tells a story.
But some stories shouldn't be told.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Joyce of the Secret Squadron:
A Captain Midnight Adventure"

How secret can your squadron be when the airplanes are bubble-gum pink?

  • Title: Joyce of the Secret Squadron
  • Subtitle: A Captain Midnight Adventure
  • Author: Russell R. Winterbotham (1904-1971)
  • Illustrator: Erwin L. Darwin, a pseudonym for Erwin L. Hess (1906-1977)
  • Edition: 1942, Whitman Publishing Company
  • Based on: This novel is a spin-off of the Captain Midnight radio serial, which aired from 1938 to 1949. World War I aviator Captain Midnight leads the Secret Squadron team, which also includes good guys Chuck, Ichabod and Joyce. The bad guys on the radio serial included Ivan Shark, his daughter Fury, Gardo and Fang.
  • Copyright mentions: (1) The Wander Company, licensed by Famous Artists Syndicate of Chicago; (2) "The jacket photo of JOYCE RYAN, as she appears in the CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT radio series, is by Maurice Seymour, Chicago." (The photo features either Marilou Neumayer and Angeline Orr, the actresses who voiced Joyce on the radio.)
  • Original price: Unknown
  • Pages: 251
  • Format: Hardcover
  • First sentences: Almost lost in the great ocean expanse of the central Pacific is a small island which is not found on commercial maps. South of Hawaii and north of Palmyra, it is somewhat to the east of the Honolulu-Sydney steamship lane, and therefore wholly unimportant in ordinary times.
  • What's the island? It's referred to simply as "No. 542."
  • Last sentences: Now some of the Secret Squadron planes were landing on the beach of the little island. There would be enough of them to carry everyone back to an American base, where the spies would be turned over to authorities and the others would be safe from attack. "Come on," Chuck said to Joyce. "I'll race you to the nearest Secret Squadron plane."
  • Random sentence from middle: Captain Midnight's face grew red.
  • Goodreads rating: 4.0 stars out of 5.0.
  • Excerpt from a Goodreads review: In 2015, Olivia wrote: "This book was soooooo good! I really can't stress that enough. I read this in a few hours because I simply could not put it down. I had gotten it when I had bought a group of books I wanted and it just happened to be along. I didn't plan on reading it since it sounded dull and I had actually put it in a box with other books to take to the bookstore. I'm not sure what made me take it out but I'm so thankful I did. ... This book works great for boys and girls. Joyce is great because she's just as tough as any boy. She flys planes like a pro and knows how to use a gun. When the Barracudas swarm attacks them in the air, Joyce is itching to man the gun and send some shots into the enemy planes. Carla is also great as a heartless spy, showing that not all females are sugar and spice and everything nice."
  • Amazon rating: 3.6 stars out of 5.0.
  • Excerpt from an Amazon review: In 2012, John Wipff wrote: "Joyce saved the day!! ... She wasn't really in much of the book until the last 2-3 chapters. Then she shone like a diamond. ... I felt the book was slanted toward girls more than guys, not only because of the name but because Joyce DOES take the initiative and saves the day. And it's probably slanted more toward pre-teen people than older ones. Be that as it may, I HIGHLY recommend it to ANY person wanting to add to his/her collection of Secret Squadron stuff."

Dust jacket back cover

Endpapers illustration